Media bias – beware its influence

The Irish Times must have been embarrassed to have to write a scathing criticism of itself and other newspapers in an Oireachtas report published in the Irish Times yesterday(26.03.15: link).

The papers in the UK will publish more articles critical of medicine than papers in Ireland do. Probably because UK journalists know they will be able to get another story somewhere, whereas Ireland, being a small island, such chances are unlikely, so are less willing to be critical of certain sectors, leaders etc. On the contrary, these papers will be more critical of certain sectors and people who don’t fit the paper’s or editors ideology.

Recently, the pro-life movement had a large demonstration in Dublin, called Thirty-three to One”, protesting at the media’s publication of 33 pro-abortion articles as against 1 pro-life article. Bias and prejudice was shown also in the lack of coverage of the event.

In the last two weeks, the Irish Times has published two op-eds against homeopathy, but as usual, refuses to publish even a short letter to counterbalance the biased articles.

It’s not the overt obvious bias but the subtle, devious, sly and suggestive bias which is more sinister. It’s the continued and pervasive prompting and nudging in a certain direction which can break down the reader’s own ideas and beliefs and try to underhandedly undermine the reader – their customer.

While people might not take the “red tops” – tabloid newspapers – too seriously, it behoves everyone not to be taken in by the broadsheet newspapers. They have their own biases and influences whether from business, politicians, advertisers, the journalists’ own interests and prejudices or that of the editor, the board of directors and or trustees, etc.

While the old Latin warning holds; Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware, the warning Caveat lector is more important – reader beware. Be careful what “news” paper you buy, but be careful too what you read and especially how you read it.

Here’s some quotes on the Oireachts inquiry from the Irish Times’ articles.

The Irish media has not changed in its tendency to cover the interests of the country’s elites, even in the midst of a recovering property market, the Oireachtas banking inquiry was told yesterday.

UCD academic Dr Julien Mercille said this close relationship with the political and corporate establishment had prevented the media from being a critical watchdog of the growing property bubble in the build up to the crash.

“A number of journalists simply acted as cheerleaders for the property sector,” Dr Mercille said during the inquiry’s media module.

He continued… “In general, it is still the interests of the elites that are mostly reflected in editorials and news stories.”

Dr Mercille, who has written on the subject of the media’s coverage of the European economic crisis, said this ineffectiveness in predicting an impending crash was down to three key factors: close ties with corporate and government interests, reliance on advertising, and the sourcing of stories.

Dr Mercille said there was an implicit threat for any media organisations offering unfavourable coverage of events that “advertising would go elsewhere”.

A similar situation arose in the area of sourcing information, Dr Mercille said. Journalists were reliant on established institutions for information, which could be denied to them in cases where coverage was deemed negative or unhelpful.

“After the crash, the media also presented the government’s crisis resolution policies in a largely favourable manner, again in line with Irish and global elites’ views,” he said.

In a related article on another newspaper, the Irish Examiner and a competitor, the Irish Times noted (link):

The editor of the Irish Examiner, Tim Vaughan, has said information on the economic conditions that would lead to Ireland’s crash was simply not available to the media before it occurred.

Does anyone really believe him..? I can think of at least two economists as well as common sense and the Economist journal! Now he really digs himself in…

Addressing the Oireachtas banking inquiry, he also said it was important to remember the fundamental difference, in media terms, of being aware of something and being able to prove it.

If you can’t prove it then don’t accept it. Simple! the Irish Times continues (unwillingly, I’m sure!):

“Much of the information on the cause of the crash that has subsequently come to light . . . was not only not in the public domain in the lead up to the banking crisis but was inaccessible to us,” he said. “Our reporting was influenced by the information that was available to us.”

How did he know there was information if he couldn’t access it? Why publish when he didn’t have information… “influenced”.

His newspaper, unlike the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal, was not stocked full of financial experts, he said.

The fallacy of appeal to authority. He hadn’t the competence to write authoritatively, but he wrote as if he had and we read it as if his paper was an authority. A serious lesson for Joe Public.

“We are reliant on agents of the State to be competent, professional, open, honest and reliable in what they do and say, and then we report on that.”

Was he a gullible innocent? If so, we were too, to swallow his articles. Blame someone else. A child does that but an adult with responsibility..? Don’t forget, he had been writing about less than honest people in government and public life.

Mr Vaughan said that at the time there had been no reason to suspect a malfunctioning financial regulatory infrastructure.

How would he know, he’s just admitted not having a paper stuffed with financial experts?

“While advertising in the property section was an important and valued source of revenue during the Celtic Tiger years, as it was before that and still is, it is important to stress that it did not seek to influence editorial policy,” he said.

Tom Murphy, the paper’s chief executive, said the editor always “remains steadfastly independent” of outside influences when it came to editorial judgement.

Does he? There’s that word “influence” again…

The Independent got it in the neck too.

The former editor of the Irish Independent has said it had “no hidden agenda to try and artificially bolster” the property sector during the boom economy, the Oireachtas banking inquiry has heard.

These papers thrived on the property market. They suffered a huge loss in advertising revenue when the property markets – residential and commercial – collapsed. While its then editor didn’t make sense at times, he mentions that word again, but with a different implication…

“Editors, writers, contributors, and analysts, cannot but be influenced by the prevailing climate at a given point in time,” he explained.

“All of these factors led to a powerful so-called ‘national feel good factor’. Ongoing reporting and analysis of economic and related matters continued against this background,” he said.

“Analysis”? Hardly! Reporting, yes; in-depth critique?, doubtful. Regurgitating information, probably.

(A recent article in the Financial Times about the Daily Telegraph not reporting the controversial financial dealings of the HSBC bank which caused a storm in the U.K. is reported here)

The British paper the Independent used to have a clever advertising caption; “Independent because it is.” And the front page often restates their claim of independence. The question is; do you believe it? Here are some more – which you can see have nothing to do with objective information delivery – but more to do with marketing.

What do these slogans say about the papers? What do they say about their customers? The Irish Times’ caption is meaningless: “For the times we live in.” the Irish Independent is smart: “Before you make up your mind, open it,” which is a nice ideal. Here are some more from around the world.

Financial Times Newspaper
Advertising slogan: No FT, No Comment

The Independent newspaper
Advertising slogans: The quality compact.
It is. Are you?

New York Times Newspaper
Ad slogan: All the News That’s Fit to Print

Daily Mirror, Britain’s tabloid newspaper
Slogans: Daily Mirror. Be part of it
Forward with the People
Forward with Britain
Biggest daily sale on Earth

The Times of India, newspaper, Delhi
Advertising slogan: The joy of continuous celebration

Wall Street Journal
Slogan: The daily diary of the American dream

The Times newspaper, UK
Slogans: Join the debate.
Are you missing what’s important?
Top people take the Times.
When The Times speaks, the World listens.
Have you ever wished you were better informed?

Sunday Times newspaper, Great Britain
Slogans: Sunday isn’t Sunday without the Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is the Sunday papers

Ekstra Bladet tabloid newspaper, Denmark
Slogans: What would you do without Ekstra Bladet?
Put up with Ekstra Bladet or put up with anything

Cape Times newspaper
Tagline: There’s nothing more valuable than knowledge

Helsingin Sanomat newspaper
Marketing slogan: Scandinavia’s BIGGEST newspaper

The Mail On Sunday newspaper
Advertising slogan: A newspaper, not a snooze paper

Bild Newspaper, Germany
Ad slogan: Bild. Read the world’s fastest newspaper

Chicago Tribune newspaper brand
Taglines: What’s in it for you?
Chicago Tribune. Beyond words.

The Detroit News, Michigan, USA
Marketing slogan: We Know Where You Live

Herald newspaper, Everett, Washington, USA
Tagline: Herald. If It Matters To You, It Matters To Us

Evening Herald tabloid newspaper, Dublin, Ireland
Advertising slogan: Evening Herald. The Best Part of the Day

The Dominion Post, broadsheet newspaper
Motto: Making Twice the Noise (for New Zealand version)

Toronto Star, major Canadian newspaper
Advertising slogan: Toronto Star. It’s where you live.

Sowetan, South Africa’s daily newspaper
Slogans: Power your Future.
Sowetan. Building the Nation.

Daily Times newspaper, Lahore, Pakistan
Slogan: Your right to know. A new voice for a new Pakistan.

Indian Express newspaper
Motto: Indian Express. Journalism of courage.

Cape Argus, an afternoon newspaper, Cape Town, South Africa
Advertising slogan: Cape Argus. News you can use.

Nasha Canada newspaper (biweekly ethnic newspaper on Russian language)
Advertising slogan: The newspaper for those who can read.

Scotland On Sunday, broadsheet newspaper
Tagline: Scotland up close.

Courier News, Bridgewater, New Jersey, USA
Advertising slogan: Local News. First in the Morning.

The Scotsman newspaper
Advertising slogan: The Scotsman. It’s thinking time.

Edinburgh Evening News newspaper
Marketing slogan: Evening News. Tomorrow’s News Today.

The Australian, Australia’s national daily newspaper
Tagline: Are you an informed Australian?

The Daily Telegraph, broadsheet newspaper, UK
Slogans: We’ve got the greatest writers.
Read a bestseller every day.
Daily Telegraph. Britain’s Best Selling Daily Broadsheet.
Daily Telegraph. Share Trader Game.

Wairarapa Times-Age daily newspaper, Masterton, New Zealand
Advertising slogan: Your Region. Your Paper.

The Sunday Herald, Scotland
Marketing slogan: Sunday Herald. Seven Days. One paper.

The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper
Tagline: The Sun. We love it!

Daily Express, a British tabloid newspaper
Slogan: The paper that stands for real values and gives you real value for money.

The Sunday Post, Scottish newspaper
Advertising slogan: The Sunday Post. It makes perfect sense.

Thisday, Nigeria’s newspaper
Motto: Thisday. African views on global news.

Scottsbluff Star-Herald, Nebraska, USA
Ad slogan: The Star-Herald. Pride in the Panhandle.

Waikato Times, Waikato, New Zealand
Marketing slogan: As Waikato As It Gets.

The Guardian, a British daily newspaper
Tagline: The Guardian. Think…

The News of the World, Britain’s newspaper
Advertising slogan: Big on Sundays.

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